Lent resources 2011

Lent is the traditional time of the year when many churches and groups will give something-up or look at running a course on a particular aspect of faith and life. Here are a few of resources that may be of interest…

1. Carbon Fast

Tearfund are again running Carbon Fast  to help tackle climate change and its impact on our global neighbours. Join the fast from 9 March and each day receive a prayer, a reflection, and a lifestyle or campaign action to take. There are weekly themes of simplicity, sacrifice, community, justice, creativity and generosity.

To get started and sign up for daily emails visit www.tearfund.org/carbonfast, where you will also be able to download resources, including a weekly guide for churches.

2. Lent course from Reading campaigning network

The Reading campaigning network have launched a Lent course for 2011. JESUS, THE EARTHLY POWERS AND US, has been devised by Reading Churches Campaigning Network, and is a 5-week course that delves deep into Scripture and into recent scholarship on power and justice. It starts from the words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’. It looks at the ‘New Vision’ of Jesus which has come from Biblical scholars and theologians, including Rowan Williams and Walter Wink, and covers matters such as, What was Jesus really like?, The Lost Message of Jesus, Christians and mammon, Christians and climate change, and what action should we be taking.

An A5 booklet for course participants is available, price £3.50 including postage. The course foundation was laid by Hamish Preston and booklet has been shaped by Peter and Lesley Boardley, Owen Jewiss and John Madeley.

Copies are available from: Hamish Preston, 19 Oaklands, Bulmershe Road, Reading RG1 5RW. e-mail: ghhpreston@aol.com (Cheques should be sent and made payable to ‘Hamish Preston’). Telephone queries to John Madeley, 01189 476063.

3. 21M

Another course that may be of interest for Lent is 21M – an eight-part DVD resource exploring the Five Marks of Mission for the 21st century produced by CMS. The Five Marks are an internationally recognised description of the elements of Christian mission involving evangelism, discipleship, relief and education, justice and creation-care

Using group activities and games, Bible studies, video interviews with current thinkers and practitioners (including Dave & Anne Bookless of A Rocha UK) and examples of mission in action from around the world 21M explores the Marks of Mission in some depth. The resource aims to inspire churches and groups to put the Marks of Mission into action. 21M is designed to be a flexible resource – structured to run as an eight-week course on mission, but elements could be used alone. The course is designed to be suitable for use by cell and home groups, youth groups (aged 14+), Lent groups, and whole churches. It consists of a DVD with film clips and a Leader’s Guide.

More information on the 21M DVD can be found at www.cms-uk.org/21M, where it can also be ordered for £4.95.

4. Future Shape?

BMS World Mission has also released a course with studies for groups and individuals, video comments from experts in the field and a video, including contributions from Dr Elaine Storkey, President of Tearfund, broadcaster and writer, Rev Dave Bookless, A Rocha UK,  and Sir John Houghton, Nobel Prize-winning Climatologist.

You can download Future Shape? or order it as a free DVD from www.bmsworldmission.org/futureshape.

Are you using other resources that you can recommend? Please share them in the comments section.

Grow Zones – get your community growing

How can you combine growing your own delicious food, making new friends, learning a natural growing method, and the opportunity to reconnect at a deep, spiritual level with creation? The answer is Grow Zones, a community growing project that you can start in your neighbourhood and church.

Designed specifically with churches in mind, Grow Zones provides an opportunity to engage new people from your neighbourhood in a simple, practical project that bears on our common concern for the earth.

The idea is very simple. Someone from a local church or neighbourhood hears about Grow Zones and, with the aid of the Grow Zones kit, forms a local team. People are introduced to a natural growing method known as Permaculture and helped to redesign their gardens so they can grow more of their own fruit and veg. Each team is offered insurance as part of the package, and sets out on a series of visits, where they work on one another’s gardens to make their dreams real. The commitment is deliberately light just four mornings make up the whole course, but experience shows that deep bonds form between people, lasting friendships are made and many go on to experience and learn more.

One participant said having experienced Grow Zones:

“I have longed to do something really positive about caring for creation. As part of the Grow Zones pilot in Bristol, and being introduced to Permaculture, I have been set on a fascinating journey that has transformed my view of the world we live in and resulted in my becoming involved in a whole set of community growing projects here in Bristol. It seems to me that reconnecting with the land, and with growing our own food, is an extraordinarily powerful means to help us reconsider how we are living and  to build fresh expressions of community life. There was a sort of implicit and deep spirituality that pervaded our experience of Grow Zones here in Bristol, as if God was there among us as we worked together. As a Christian minister, I have also been concerned to express concern for creation in a way that is more than theory, or just ‘doing without’ something. It seems to me that the great biblical hope for peace and harmony in creation finds real expression in the hearts of those who join together in a project like Grow Zones.”

Start a Grow Zones Team

The GrowZones Kit

Would you be interested in starting a group in your area? You don’t necessarily need to have any gardening experience, all you need is to be good at organising and encouraging people. If you can gather a group of people together, the Grow Zones Kit will provide the help and resources to get you growing for your first season.

For more information, and to start a team, visit www.growzones.com.

Grow Zones is a national project – supported by the Local Food fund – and a series of Christ and the Earth retreat days supports the programme. To book a retreat day and find out more about the community behind Grow Zones visit www.earthabbey.com.


Greener cars

Photo by yuuka1

With darker evenings and the colder weather we are all likely to be picking up the car keys more often, so this week we are highlighting a few car-based ideas to help you explore making your car use greener.

Smarter driving

How fuel-efficient is your driving? Some simple changes to the way you drive could cut the fuel you use and save money. Known as smarter driving this involves using your gears, acceleration and powers of anticipation to adopt a more fuel-efficient driving style. The Energy Saving Trust has produced a top ten of smarter driving tips and they also provide businesses with training courses for their employees.

Share a lift

Why not lift share? Find someone else going your way, make new friends, cut your carbon emissions, and save money. Car-sharing can be used for any type of journey at any time. It can make boring solo journeys sociable and fun, and you don’t even need a car to sign up.

There are plenty of schemes that will match you safely up with potential people to share with – either as drivers or passengers, and resources that help calculate the costs, making it easier than ever to share lifts:

Liftshare.org – national website – just sign up for free, add your journeys and find someone to car-share with.

Carplus – national charity promoting responsible car use, with information on car sharing and links to local schemes

For those people in the Diocese of Oxford there are the following council area schemes: Oxfordshire Car Share | Bucks Car Share | Reading Car Share

Car clubs

We’ve mentioned car clubs before, where members get access to a fleet of cars parked in designated bays in local streets without any of the hassle or cost of ownership. There are car club schemes springing up all over the place – and if there isn’t one in your area yet, why not explore starting a community car club in your area, or offer a parking space to an existing club?

Once a member, you can book a car, online or over the phone, for periods upwards of half an hour, and you’re charged according to the length of booking and distance travelled. Members each get a smart card to open the car when they have a booking, so there’s none of the hassle of collecting a conventional hire car.

Commonwheels – a national car club operator that runs community car clubs, and has a  ‘member car scheme’, where members convert their cars into car club cars, and Commonwheels then take on the costs and hassle of maintaining the car and in return, the member gets free use of the car. In the Diocese of Oxford Commonwheels currently operate clubs in Oxford (in association with a local community Car club, Oxcar: www.oxcar.org.uk), High Wycombe and Reading.

StreetCar – a national car club operating in Brighton, Cambridge, Guildford, London, Maidstone, Oxford and Southampton.

Connect by Hertz – is a national car club, which runs the University of Reading Car Club.

For general information about car clubs, and a searchable map of clubs in your area, visit the CarPlus website.

Ever wanted to drive a neighbour’s car? Now you can.

WhipCar is a neighbour-to-neighbour car rental service, that enables you to rent the cars that are sitting idle on your street. It’s like a car club, but makes use of the cars already on your street. Useful for car owners wanting to make the most of your car when it is not being used, or would-be car users looking for a car to use.

WhipCar takes care of all the details (like insurance, screening of drivers, breakdown cover and payment) – to find out more take a look at whipcar.com.

Thinking of buying a new car?

The Greener Car Guide from Start, helps you look for the best driving option for your lifestyle. It goes through all the key options, from hire cars to hybrids, drawing on the wisdom of climate experts, and giving you advice on what would be the best option for your pocket and the environment. The Energy Saving Trust also have a Car Buying Guide, from looking at buying a new or used car, with expert tips on how to buy cars that are better for the environment and why that matters.

top ten smarter driving tipstop ten smarter driving tips

Lighter Later – Write to your MP

Every year the clocks get set in a way that means we get less light in our lives, sleeping through the sunlit mornings while we use expensive, polluting electric light in the evenings. The Lighter Later campaign is calling to move the clocks forward by one hour so that we are awake when the sun is out.

This December a Private Member’s Bill supporting the Lighter Later campaign is going to Parliament. Those supporting the campaign includes RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), the AA and Sustrans.

People are asked to support the Private Member’s Bill by asking for their MP’s support. Find out more here.

Energy Saving Week



This week is Energy Saving Week – there are lots of resoruces available on the Energy Saving Trust website, including a free online home energy check, which could save you up to £250 a year on your bills: Free home energy check.

The whole site is a wealth of information on energy saving for your home and community space. Have a look and mention it to your friends.

Persuading your landlord to install energy saving measures

The start of term can see lots of people moving into rented accommodation – and living in a rented property can be a frustrating experience if you want to stop wasting energy. After all it’s unlikely you’re going to want to install loft insulation or replace the inefficient heating system at your own expense.

Help is at hand, however, thanks to the Energy Saving Trust’s resource for tenants.

With persuasive reasons why your landlord should install energy saving measures, a template landlord letter to encourage your landlord to take action now, and a list of simple and quick ways you can stop wasting energy at home immediately – it could be a valuable resource for you or someone you know.

Find out more at How to persuade your landlord to install energy saving measures in your home.

Yew protection

I was recently at Lambeth Palace for a day meeting with other green fanatics and agencies. These included Russell Ball from ‘The Ancient Yew Group‘. Apparently, Veteran Yews are 350-1000 years old, and Ancient Yews are 1000-5000 years old, which by any standards is staggeringly old. Yew trees have had a troubled life in the last few hundred years, being cut down to make long bows so we can kill each other. And the few that are left in this country are generally in churchyards. Now Russell is very keen that we don’t kill off any more of the Yew trees and suggested that if we have any in our churchyards that we get a Tree Preservation Order for them. This not only protects them for the next generation, but also enables people to obtain free expert advice if there are any issues with the tree.

Those of us who attended the day wandered through Archbishop Rowan William’s garden and planted a baby Yew tree. I hope he doesn’t mind.

Originally posted on Lesley’s Blog